Bad deal lands Lee County in more financial trouble - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Bad deal lands Lee County in more financial trouble

April 26, 2007

Lee County--Lee County department heads can't fill vacant jobs and county leaders say they may have to raise taxes or slash services to balance the budget. Now commissioners have a $300,000 mistake to explain to taxpayers.

The county made a deal with a private company to provide wireless internet service to Lee Countians, but the deal went sour.

Thursday night, commissioners voted to sue the company. The word "Camvera" makes some commissioners feel a little uneasy lately.

"If you had to vote again, how would you vote knowing what you know now?(Reporter) No, comment, thank you. We're not going there," says Ealum.

Commissioner Jo Ealum voted to bring the fast internet service provider to Lee County, but she and fellow commissioners now plan to sue the company. "We need to do everything we can to regain that money," says Ealum.

Camvera halted construction on a cell tower behind Oxford Construction in Lee County after financial troubles arose.

"It just fell through. It was one of those bad moves we made," says Morris Leverette.

Commissioner Morris Leverette says county leaders voted to bring the internet service provider to Lee County two years ago-- before the county's own money problems began.

"Why did we need this? (Reporter) Well, that was prior before we knew we were in such a financial bind that was a couple of years ago. We didn't know we were in such a bind until we got a new administrator, a new finance director," says Leverette.

The county purchased thousands of dollars in equipment to help get the internet service up and running. Since that won't happen, commissioners want their money back.

"They weren't what they were supposed to be," says Leverette.

Camvera has deepened the county's financial woes.  Leverette says if he could vote differently today, he would in a heartbeat. "I'd say no, no way. I wouldn't vote for it," says Leverette.

For now, commissioners are doing everything they can to get back the money invested into a service that never took flight.

Former commissioner Billy Mathis was the only one who voted against the Camvera deal.

Morris Leverette was the only commissioner willing to talk about the issue.

In addition to Commissioner Ealum, Commissioner Wally Roberts, and County Administrator Alan Ours refused to answer our questions.

Feedback: news@walb.com?Subject=CamveraVersusLeeCounty